In a crafty move that befits its wheeler-dealer anti-hero, teen comedy Charlie Bartlett arrives on the coat-tails of the highly publicised Iron Man, which also features Robert Downey Jr. The star gives a pleasing supporting performance here as an officious school principal who opposes every move made by Charlie (Anton Yelchin), a troubled kid freshly ejected from his local prep school. Charlie’s a joker who manufactures fake IDs and deals his prescribed anti-depression drugs to his classmates, craving popularity and the acceptance of his peers to compensate for a fractured family life.
Similarities to Wes Anderson’s considerably superior Rushmore are undeniable but in the hands of established comedy film editor turned director Jon Poll and first-time writer Gustin Nash, Bartlett’s struggle with authority comes into sharp and engaging focus. But unlike Bill Murray’s loveable cad, Downey Jr’s principal is characterised only by his over-zealous resolve to protect his daughter Susan (Kat Dennings), a move that robs Bartlett’s Holden Caulfield via Ferris Bueller brand of teenage rebellion of any wider social resonance. An amusing enough take on the agonies of youth, Charlie Bartlett deserves a B plus for effort.
Selected release from Fri 9 May.